Four Cases When Hiring an Interim CEO Makes Sense — Even for a Young Startup!

Number 4

I’ve done 10 interim CEO / interim COO gigs during the last 10 years.  In my view, there are four cases when hiring an interim CEO make sense:




  1. For The First 3 – 18 Months of a Startup: As detailed in this post (which in turn was prompted by a post from Flybridge Capital Partners venture capitalist Michael Greeley’s) there are times when hiring an interim CEO at the formation of a startup makes sense.  Adding the experience of a senior, successful entrepreneur to the passion and vision of the founding entrepreneurs can increase the likelihood of the venture’s success.  (This is the role I played at Ember Corporation.)
  2. Helping a Founding CEO: Often, later in a startup’s life, a founding CEO can use help.  Rather than terminating the founder and “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” a better solution might be to bring in an interim COO to counsel the founder, and – in many cases – to actually assume some hands-on, day-to-day duties for some number of months.  When the company moves to the “next level,” then the founder can again assume full control. (This is the role I played at Eink.)
  3. Clean Up to Attract an Industry-Specific CEO: Sometimes a company wants to hire an “industry-specific” CEO to have the venture really take off.  But often an executive search firm will say that – until things are “cleaned up” – top-notch CEO candidates from the industry cannot be attracted.  An interim CEO has the very clear remit of cleaning up the place for the next person.  (This  is the role I played at HeartSine in the UK.)
  4. Due Diligence for Further Investment: Often the original investors have been asked to invest further in a company that has not met plan. For a variety of reasons, the investors often want a person of their choice placed inside the company to manage this next round of investment.  (This is what I was charged with doing at CR2 in Dublin, though the way I started the assignment was a bit unorthodox.)

Do these interim CEO / interim COO assignments always work out?  No.  Startups and turn arounds are both high-risk ventures.  Some turn out well.  Others do not.  But in all cases I’ve worked with great people; and it was these great people – and not I – who, with a bit of guidance and leadership, took the company to the next level.


5 Responses to “Four Cases When Hiring an Interim CEO Makes Sense — Even for a Young Startup!”

  1. Building on Michael Greeley’s Idea for Senior Successful Serial Entrepreneurs Joining Startups « Change Agent Says:

    […] written a handful of short blog posts on interim management, answering questions like,  “When does it make sense? What’s a typical engagement like? What do you do the first day; the first […]

  2. Three Reasons Interim Management Works « Change Agent Says:

    […] In an earlier post, I give my view on the six things it takes to be a good interim executive.  In another, I discuss the four cases when, in my view, a business should consider interim executive […]

  3. Why I’ve Said, “No” When – On Day Ten Of Each Interim Assignment – I’m Asked To Make It Permanent « Change Agent Says:

    […] interim CEO / COO / GM. Earlier posts discussed the benefits of interim executive management from a company’s point of view, as well as from an executive’s. Another post described the process I use my first […]

  4. Anatomy of a Turn Around: The First Five Days « Change Agent Says:

    […] done. If you are interested, see this post for the ‘pros and cons’ of interim management, and this post for the characteristics of situations where interim management makes sense. Possibly related posts: […]

  5. New Report: “8 Cases When VC’s & Boards Should Hire An Interim CEO” « Change Agent Says:

    […] completed 10 interim assignments in 10 years (4 in the States, and 6 in Europe) and the cases I’ve most often come across are […]

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